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USDA Announces Plan for $1.6 Billion Investment in Renewable Fuels

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns today announced plans to propose $1,6 billion in new funding for renewable energy, with a focus on cellulosic energy research and production, as part of the Administration's 2007 farm bill proposals. This funding will support President Bush's goal of reducing gasoline usage by 20 percent in the next ten years and will compliment an array of renewable energy-related efforts underway at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In his State of the Union Address last night, President Bush announced his vision for our nation's energy independence, including $2 billion in cellulosic production loan guarantees. The President's proposals also include a new Alternative Fuels Standard, which contains a requirement for sources produced by American farmers and ranchers as well as an automatic "safety valve" to protect against unforeseen increases in the prices of alternative fuels or their feedstocks.

"It remains a priority across USDA to support the development of biofuels. We will continue to build on current programs and turn the corner on renewable energy," said Johanns. "With biofuels coming to the forefront, American agriculture faces the greatest opportunity of a generation to lead a future in which we get our energy by the bushel and not by the barrel."

Following are examples of USDA's projects underway and accomplishments to date:
  • USDA issued a formal Request For Information to initiate discussion with private sector partners willing to work with us to establish a bio-fuels pumping station in Washington DC, which would serve the general public and more than 800 flex fuel vehicles in the federal fleet.
  • In 2006, USDA launched BioPreferred, a procurement program that serves to increase the procurement and use of biobased products by Federal agencies. USDA has developed an easy access online Designated Biobased Product Catalog as a resource of identifying biobased products.
  • USDA spent nearly $1.7 billion on energy-related programs between 2001 and 2005. In 2006 alone, USDA made available more than $270 million on these programs in areas such as commercialization, research, infrastructure development, and technical support. Currently, there are 110 operational ethanol plants in 19 states with another 73 under construction and new proposals at an astounding rate.
  • In 2005, Secretary Johanns appointed a USDA Energy Council for the purpose of coordinating and examining departmental programs and authorities, ensuring they fit into a comprehensive energy strategy.
  • In 2000, USDA established the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), an interagency working group with the Department of Energy, to coordinate and accelerate all Federal biobased products and bioenergy research and development.
  • Last October, President Bush offered the keynote address at the Advanced Renewable Energy Conference, hosted by USDA and the Department of Energy. The joint conference brought together the brightest minds in government and industry, as well as key stakeholders from the financial, agricultural and energy sectors, to address the challenges and opportunities to advance renewable energy.
  • USDA's Agriculture Research Service (ARS) scientists have developed improved fermentation organisms and are making other significant steps toward achieving the technology needed for commercial production of cellulosic ethanol. ARS scientists have genetically modified a strain of lactic acid bacteria, that produces increased levels of ethanol from cellulosic biomass. The research findings demonstrate that metabolic engineering has the potential to create new biocatalysts to convert biomass to biofuels.
Johanns plans to provide additional information about the proposal to provide $1.6 billion in new funding for renewable energy within the next few weeks when he unveils the Administration's full package of 2007 farm bill proposals.

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